Index (typography)

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apostrophe   '
brackets [ ]  ( )  { }  ⟨ ⟩
colon :
comma ,  ،  
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exclamation mark  !
full stop, period .
hyphen-minus -
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semicolon ;
slash, stroke, solidus /  
Word dividers
interpunct ·
General typography
ampersand &
asterisk *
at sign @
backslash \
caret ^
dagger † ‡
degree °
ditto mark
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inverted question mark ¿
number sign, pound, hash, octothorpe #
numero sign
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plus and minus + −
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Uncommon typography
index, fist
irony punctuation
reference mark
In other scripts

The symbol is a punctuation mark, called an index, manicule (from the Latin root manus for 'hand' and manicula for 'little hand') or fist. Other names for the symbol include printer's fist, bishop's fist, digit, mutton-fist, hand, hand director, pointer, and pointing hand.[1]


Pointing hands used in the signage outside the bar Cheers in Boston, part of a Victorian decorative theme.

Though rare today, this symbol was in common use between the 12th and 18th centuries in the margins of books,[2] and was formerly included in lists of standard punctuation marks.[3] It primarily fell out of favor because its complex design made it unfit for modern handwriting, and its wide size made it difficult to fit on a typewriter or on early, low-resolution, monospaced computer fonts.[citation needed] It was not included in ASCII. It was, however, added to Unicode. Historian William Sherman speculates that as the symbols became standardized, they were no longer reflective of individuality in comparison to other writing, and this explains their diminished popularity.[4]

Manicules are first known to appear in the 1100s in handwritten manuscripts in Spain, and became common in the 1300s and 1400s in Italy with some very elaborate with shading and artful cuffs.[5] After the popularization of the printing press starting in the 1450s, the handwritten version continued in handwritten form as a means to annotate printed documents. Some were playful and elaborate, but others were as simple as "two squiggly strokes suggesting the barest sketch of a pointing hand" and thus quick to draw.[6] Manicules also became a printed character, and from the 1400s to 1700 with a few exceptions (such as figurines of pointing men and women) were horizontal, small, and uniform in appearance.[7] In the 1800s and 1900s, the pointing hand became more popular in publications, advertising, and directional signage.[8] Some fingerposts have relief-printed or even fully three-dimensional physical manifestations of pointing hands,[9] The United States Postal Service has also used a pointing hand as a graphical indicator for its "Return to Sender" stamp.


1865 wanted poster of John Wilkes Booth using index-fist character.

The typical use of the pointing hand is as a bullet-like symbol to direct the reader’s attention to important text, having roughly the same meaning as the word "attention" or "note". It is used this way both by annotators and printers. Even in the first few centuries of use, it can be seen used to draw attention to specific text, such as a title (in some cases in the form of a row of manicules), inserted text, noteworthy passage, or sententiae.[10] In some cases, flower marks and asterisks were used for similar purposes.[11] Less commonly, in earlier centuries the pointing hand acted as a section divider with a pilcrow as paragraph divider; or more rarely as the paragraph divider itself.[12]

Some encyclopedias use it in articles to cross-reference, as in other articles. It occasionally sees use in magazines and comic books to indicate to the reader that a story on the right-hand page continues onto the next.[citation needed]

In linguistics, the symbol is often used in optimality theory tables to identify the winner in a candidate set.

An upward pointing hand is often used in the mouse cursor in graphical user interfaces (such as those in Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop) to indicate an object that can be manipulated. The first is believed to be the Xerox Star.[13] Many web browsers use an upward pointing hand cursor to indicate a clickable hyperlink. CSS 2.0 allows the "cursor" property to be set to "hand" or "pointer" to intentionally change the mouse cursor to this symbol when hovering over an object; "move" may produce a closed fisted hand. Many video games made in the 1980s and '90s, primarily text-based adventure games, also used these cursors.[citation needed]

In literature[edit]

American science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut used the symbol as a form of margin on the first line of every paragraph in his novel Breakfast Of Champions. The literary effect of this was to create separation between each paragraph, reinforcing the stream of consciousness style of the text.

Thomas Pynchon parodies this punctuation mark in his novel Gravity's Rainbow by depicting a middle finger, rather than an index finger, pointing at a line of text.[14]


There are 23 index symbols in Unicode.

The first eight are in the Basic Multilingual Plane:

  • U+261A black left pointing index
  • U+261B black right pointing index
  • U+261C white left pointing index
  • U+261D white up pointing index
  • U+261E white right pointing index
  • U+261F white down pointing index

Outside the BMP, there are several emoji pointing hands, which are displayed in colour on some systems:

  • U+1F446 👆 white up pointing backhand index
  • U+1F447 👇 white down pointing backhand index
  • U+1F448 👈 white left pointing backhand index
  • U+1F449 👉 white right pointing backhand index

The remainder of the Unicode indices (from 1F597 to 1F5A3) were added from the Wingdings 2 font as part of Unicode 7.0. They are not yet widely supported as of 2014.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sherman, p. 9-10
  2. ^ Sherman, p. 2
  3. ^ Sherman, note 10, quoting Hasler, “A Show of Hands,”: 4. The standard sequence of “reference marks” was *, †, ‡, §, ‖, ¶, and ☞.
  4. ^ Sherman, p. 20-21
  5. ^ Sherman, p. 11
  6. ^ Sherman, p. 12
  7. ^ Sherman, p. 12-13
  8. ^ Sherman, p. 13
  9. ^ Pictures from an image search for "manicule fingerpost": [1], [2], [3]
  10. ^ Sherman, p. 14-18
  11. ^ Sherman, p. 14-18
  12. ^ Sherman, p. 14-18
  13. ^ Sherman, p. 13
  14. ^ Pynchon, Thomas (2012). Gravity's Rainbow. Penguin. ISBN 9781101594650. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 

External links[edit]